WASHINGTON " The 2008 Republican platform, in language that is hostile to illegal immigrants, says only those legally residing in the United States should be counted in the next census.
"The integrity of the 2010 census, proportioning congressional representation among the states, must be preserved," says the platform language, which is a reinterpretation of the Constitution that could affect how congressional seats are apportioned. "The census," it says, "should count every person legally abiding in the United States in an actual enumeration."
The 14th Amendment of the Constitution, ratified in 1868, says that representatives to the U.S. House "should be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed."
"Our mandate is to count all residents regardless of legal status," said Mark Tolbert, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.
Michigan Republican Candice Miller has proposed a constitutional amendment specifying that congressional representation "shall be determined by counting the number of persons in each state who are citizens of the United States."
Miller, in reintroducing the amendment last year, said that states with a large number of illegal immigrants are gaining unfair representation in the House. Had her amendment been in place before the 2000 census, Miller said, California would have six fewer seats in the House while New York, Florida and Texas would have one fewer seat. States with fewer undocumented residents, including her own state of Michigan and others such as Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, would have picked up a seat, she said.
The 2008 platform goes on to say that "we urge all who are legally eligible to participate in the census count to do so; at the same time, we urge Congress to specify " and to constitutionally justify " which census questions require a response."
Cecilia Munoz of the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group for Hispanic Americans, said Sen. John McCain "has a great track record" on immigration issues but is being undercut by his party's positions. "The census language manages to be both unconstitutional and insulting," she said.